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CU Religious Studies

Tsadra Foundation has generously gifted the CU Libraries with an impressive collection of Tibetan texts consisting of religious, historical, biographical and philosophical materials. The gifted texts include the collected works of a number of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism, whose works are only beginning to be studied in any depth as Tibetan Studies expands as a field…

The donation by the Tsadra Foundation significantly expands both the breadth and depth of these holdings, and the Department of Religious Studies and the CU Libraries would like to express their appreciation to the Tsadra Foundation for this impressive donation of Tibetan texts. For a flourishing Tibetan Studies program at CU Boulder, particularly as the Department of Religious Studies seeks to establish a Ph.D. program, it is essential for the CU Libraries to continue to expand and develop its Tibetan language materials. Substantial gifts like this by the Tsadra Foundation provide crucial resources for advanced language study and research for faculty and graduate students at the university and along Colorado’s Front Range…

Read more here

by Sarah Harding

This year the seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies was held in Mongolia, co-sponsored by the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, in association with the National University of Mongolia. It was a fitting place for international scholars of Tibetan studies to convene, given the long, ancient history with Tibet and the resurgence of Buddhist activities in the last twenty years. The University is in central Ulaanbaatar–a booming city with nonstop construction during the few summer months when this is possible. It is only a block from the parliament building with its commanding statue of Chinggis Khan, the great warrior venerated everywhere as the ancestor and symbol of the Mongols.

On the other side of the parliament square is the psychedelic home of the Tyrannosaurus dinosaur found in the Gobi, a close second as a symbol of national pride ever since the smuggled skeleton that had sold for over a million dollars was demanded back by the Mongolians and duly returned by the U.S.


It is tempting to just write about fascinating Mongolia, but the subject here is, of course, the conference. After a late night arrival, the next morning we faced the crushing registration process, took advantage of bus tours to Ganden monastery or the Bogd Kahn palace museum, and later attended the opening plenary session, where many of the greatest scholars in the field could be seen in deep jet-lag sleep. I was honored to join them there.

Over the next six days there were panels and sessions averaging at least ten per time-slot, making choices so hard as to be almost random. I am still stricken with regret over the ones I missed. And all of us missed the scores of Tibetan nationals who were denied exit visas at the last minute, leaving some panels with skeleton crews. Still, there were some six hundred participants and plenty of stimulation. Here is a mere mention of a few sessions that I didn’t miss: There was an interesting panel on kingship with a wide range of papers. I remember subjects such as Kingship Ideology in Sino-Tibetan Diplomacy, The Dalai Lama as the Cakravartin Rāja Manifested by the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, and an interesting discussion by Nathan Hill on the sku-bla rite in Imperial Tibetan religion. To quote from his conclusion: “The evidence of the sku-bla across Old Tibetan literature indicates that the sku-bla is the spiritual counterpart of the Tibetan emperor and has been his companion ever since both resided in the heavens, specifically the realm of Dmu; vassals of the Tibetan Empire (not the imperial government itself) propitiate the sku-bla in ritual observance.” New to me.

A panel called “The Secular in Tibet and Mongolia” had been convened by Colorado locals Holly Gayley of CU (and my travelling companion) and Nicole Willock of DU. Janet Gyatso expertly set the stage by establishing the parameters of secularism and used her current research on Tibetan Medicine (translating the rgyud bzhi) as an example. Holly, Nicole, Tsering Shakya and others followed with excellent papers, bringing us right up to the present time with Holly’s discussion of Buddhist advice to the laity in contemporary Tibet and Emmi Okada’s discussion of the Dalai Lama’s Ethics for a New Millennium. Of all the panels and sessions I attended, this one had the hottest discussion afterwards that left us invigorated.

Another popular and packed panel was called “Hermes in Tibet,” with an entertaining-as-ever presentation by Robert Thurman, as well as John Campbell, Christian Wedemeyer (and sadly not David Gray), all focusing on the Guhyasamāja tantra, capped off by a fascinating paper by Yael Bentor on “Interpreting the body mandala.” It occurred to me that delving into the deep levels of tantra, we are really just scratching the surface, smart as we are.

I found the panel on Nyingma very refreshing, as it was held in a beautiful room with old wood stadium seating, the only time I wasn’t packed into a hot stuffy classroom. There were other good things too. Naropa alum Joel Gruber, now at UCSB, did a great job as convener, especially when a paper on the rNying ma rGyud ‘bum drew some rapid-fire retorts on incredibly important points that I can’t remember. Joel’s own paper on mahāyoga commentaries attributed to Vimalamitra was adorned with beautiful graphs, which that auditorium could actually project on a big screen. I realize that to be a researcher in the field one needs to be expert at math and graphic (literally) art, something Joel certainly didn’t get from me at Naropa.

I wanted to stay in that cool room all day, but felt compelled to abandon the Nyingma for Mahāmudrā in another tiny stuffy room. Such is my karma. Or is it collective? Anyway, the māhamudrā discussions were both familiar and interesting. Klaus-Dieter Mathes headed up a group from Vienna, where many papers focused on specific recurring thematic terms, such as lhan cig skyes pa, bsres ba, gshis, and gdangs. Roger Jackson finished from the outside, as it were, with the fascinating question “Did Tshog kha pa teach mahāmudrā?” and reiterated the many objections to Kagyu mahāmudrā put forth by Gelukpas and Sakyas over the centuries. I love this stuff: ending up both confirmed and disturbed!

Finally I had to miss all kinds of good things in order to be at my own presentation. The loosely grouped catchall session entitled “Tibetan Buddhist Women” consisted of presentations on contemporary living situations and nunneries for women practitioners. Again, unfortunately, the scholars from Tibet were absent, as was even the discussant. We heard from Bhutanese Ani Rinzin on the flourishing state of Pema Choling Nunnery, a place close to my heart that was started by Gangteng Tulku in Bhutan. Karma Lekshe Tsomo delivered a rousing speech on the history and current state of bhiksuni ordination, deftly using the very arguments employed by Tibetan clerics who oppose it to negate them in true madhyamaka style. Then it was my turn to follow up those current and relevant issues with the highly irrelevant and unresolvable question of whether or not Machik Lapdrön really taught gcod some time back in the 11th century. Lucky for me I was in the right place, as the Tibetan scholars who are also apparently interested in ancient dusty pecha poured in. I presented the scant evidence from the early texts that I have translated from the gDams ngag mdzod for Tsadra Foundation. Of course I talked too much and there was no time for discussion, but I later heard some feedback that I had successfully made the case. And at least I could introduce my preference for the Single Mother of Color with my single-photo power point:

So that, in brief, is my experience of the conference. It was a good conference, and only partially eclipsed by the good fun that followed. Holly and I joined Nicole and her resident friend Robin for a few days of adventure out on the steppe and to Chenggis Khan’s ancient capital of Karakaroum (with “k” pronounced as “h” it sounds more like a sneeze). After that, Holly and I and another Naropa alum, Lilly Atlihan, went for a longer horse ride in the countryside west of Ulaanbaatar. Here are some of my photos of the open, or narrow, road:


You can find the recent review of Karl’s two volume work on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra here.

Karl Brunnhölzl. Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition. 2 Volumes. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, ISBN 978-1-55939-356-0, ISBN 978-1-55939-357-7.

Review: Peter Gilks. Review of Brunnhölzl, Karl, Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition and Brunnhölzl, Karl, Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition. H-Buddhism, H-Net Reviews. July, 2012.
Review URL:


Fred Coulson’s blog has a calculator that will convert your Tibetan year into a Western equivalent. Provide the animal, element, and rab byung and you might get something useful:

For more on the Tibetan Calendar:

In October of last year Tsadra Staff and Fellows attended the International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism at Emory University in Atlanta. The main panel discussions have now been made available online in video format. Click here for the Translating the Dharma panel with Sarah Harding, Thupten Jinpa, José Cabezón, Jeffrey Hopkins, and others. Click here to view the official website.

Comparaison de différentes traductions du Maṅgala
(stances dédicatoires / Dedicatory Verses) des
Stances fondamentales de la Voie médiane

de Nāgārjuna

Here are some translations of the “Dedicatory Verses” of The Fundamental Stanzas of the Middle Way. I find very, very interesting to investigate into the different translations of the same Sanskrit original in order to get a feeling of what I call “the space of translation”. As we’ll meet very soon in Altlanta in order to exchange some ideas about our work in translation, I felt it could be interesting for everyone to have a clear example of what I’m trying to express: is it possible to theorize the seeming openness suggested by all these different expressions of the same ? Can we seriously condemn certain translations in favor of other ones ? What are the criteria which could definitely define a good & authorized translation ? The matter may seem trivial, but it is not at all, and I’m sure there are still many discoveries to be done on that subject.

And please excuse my barbarian English…

anirodham anutpādam anucchedam aśāśvataṃ |
anekārtham anānārtham anāgamam anirgamaṃ ||

yaḥ pratītyasamutpādaṃ prapañcopaśamaṃ śivaṃ |
deśayām āsa saṃbuddhas taṃ vande vadatāṃ varaṃ ||

[Literally: without cessation, without birth, without annihilation, without eternity,
without unity, without multiplicity, without coming, without going,
To him who has shown that what interdependently arises is the auspicious appeasement of the conceptual constructions, the perfect Buddha, the best of “speakers”, I pay homage.]

Kumārajīva, 410

(T 1564, vol. 30, 1b17)

不生亦不滅  不常亦不斷
不一亦不異  不來亦不出
能說是因緣  善滅諸戲論
我稽首禮佛  諸說中第一

[Literally: not being born, not ceasing, not eternal, not annihilated,
not one, not different, not coming, not going out,
to him who can say this cause-and-conditions, good at extinguishing all plays-on-words,
to the Buddha I respectfully pay homage, for he is the first amongst all who speak.]

Cog ro klu yi rgyal mtshan (fin VIIIe siècle)

/gang gis rten cing ‘brel bar ‘byung//’gag pa med pa skye med pa/
/chad pa med pa rtag med pa//’ong ba med pa ‘gro med pa/

/tha dad don min don gcig min//spros pa nyer zhi zhi bstan pa/
/rdzogs pa’i sangs rgyas smra rnams kyi//dam pa de la phyag ‘tshal lo/

David J. Kalupahana, 1986

I salute him, the fully enlightened, the best of speakers, who
preached the non-ceasing and the non-arising, the non-
annihilation and the non-permanence, the non-identity and the
non-difference, the non-appearance and the non-disappearence,
the dependent arising, the appeasement of obsessions and the

Jay L. Garfield, 1995

I prostrate to the perfect Buddha,
The best of teachers, who taught that
Whatever is dependently arisen is
Unceasing, unborn,
Unannihilated, not permanent,
Not coming, not going,
Without distinction, without identity,
And free from conceptual construction.

Stephen Batchelor, avril 2000

I bow down to the most sublime of speakers, the completely awakened one who taught contingency (no cessation, no birth, no annihilation, no permanence, no coming, no going, no difference, no identity) to ease fixations.

Guy Bugault (2002)

Sans rien qui cesse ou se produise, sans rien qui soit
anéanti ou qui soit éternel, sans unité ni diversité, sans
arrivée ni départ, telle est la coproduction conditionnée,
des mots et des choses apaisement béni. Celui qui nous l’a
enseignée, l’Éveillé parfait, le meilleur des instructeurs, je
le salue.

[Literally : without anything that ceases or arises, without anything that is
annihilated or eternal, without unity nor diversity, without
arrival nor departure, such is the conditioned co-production,
the blessed appeasement of words and things. The one who has taught
it to us, the perfect Enlightened One, the best amongst teachers, I

Padmakara (English), 2008

To him who taught that things arise dependently,
Not ceasing, not arising,
Not annihilated nor yet permanent,
Not coming, not departing,
Not different, not the same :
The stilling of all thought, and perfect peace :
To him, the best of teachers, perfect Buddha,
I bow down.

Padmakara (français), 2008

À celui qui, montrant que ce qui se produit en interdépendance
N’a ni cessation ni naissance,
Ni interruption ni pérennité,
Ni venue ni allée,

Et n’est ni multiple ni un,
[Montre] l’apaisement des concepts, la paix,
À cet Éveillé parfait, le plus saint
Des philosophes, je rends hommage.

[Literally: to him who, showing that what arises interdependently
Has no cessation nor birth,
No interruption nor permanence,
No coming nor going,

And is neither multiple nor one,
(Shows) the appeasement of conceptions, peace,
To that perfect Enlightened One, the holiest
Amongst philosophers, I pay homage.]

Kathmandu University and the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute will host the 8th Annual Symposium on Buddhist Studies on Saturday, December 11th, 2010 from 1pm to 5pm at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Theme: “Great Debates”

Dr. Tom Tillemans, University of Lausanne
Dr. Pascale Hugon, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Dr. Georges Dreyfus, Williams College
Dr. Jonardon Ganeri, University of Sussex
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery
Ven. Dr. Phramaha Dhammahaso, Mahachulalongkorn University

Hyatt Regency Hotel, Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal

Time: 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Saturday, December 11, 2010

Open to all – Free admission

TBRC is now accepting applications for internships in several areas related to the digital library. See their blog here:


The IATS 2010 Schedule is now posted at Vancouver’s Institute of Asian Research website.

Tsadra Foundation will be represented at the conference by Karl Brunnholzl, Sarah Harding, Stephanie Johnston and Marcus Perman. Blog posts will be made from the conference in mid August.

Download the PDF with details for each panel session here: Panel Session Details IATS 2010

In case you were unaware, the newly updated version of the Times New Roman font now includes diacritics from the Latin Extended Additional character area, which includes dots above and below letters and other key characters used for representing Sanskrit and other languages used in Buddhist studies. If you are a Tsadra Fellow and you don’t have access to the new version of the font, or are not sure where to get it, let me know and I’ll get it to you ASAP. Just email: